Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sierra Club, League of American Bicyclists Supporting USDOT Complete Streets Plans

It's action day here at Bike Commuting in Columbus!

As we reported after the League of American Bicyclists National Bike Summit, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced that the rules were changing for the Department of Transportation's planning policy.  From now on, all plans were to take into account all forms of transportation, not just cars.  That means cyclists' and pedestrians' needs would be considered equal to motorists.

Now, the Sierra Club and the League of American Bicyclists are starting letter-writing campaigns to support this new policy.

The League is asking people to contact their governors, and request that they publicly support the new policy for the benefit of people's health and the environment.

The Sierra Club is requesting that people that people ask their representatives to support HR 4722.  This piece of legislation was introduced by Oregon representative Earl Blumenauer and is described thus:
To direct the Secretary of Transportation to carry out an active transportation investment program to encourage a mode shift to active transportation within selected communities by providing safe and convenient options to bicycle and walk for routine travel, and for other purposes.
Please take part in one or both of these campaigns to make our nation healthier, cleaner, and more friendly!

People, not speed.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

League of American Bicyclists Newsletter - March 29, 2010

For all you fans of the LAB, here's the latest news from them!

National News
What if Dreams Came True?
On March 15, we took a huge step forward in realizing our dream of creating a more bicycle-friendly America. The United States Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, announced a new cycling policy that heralds the end of second-class treatment for cyclists. In more than 25 years in the United States, the League has never been more hopeful about our future than we are today. With your support, we can capture the moment and move decisively towards making all our dreams come true. Read more.
League National Bike Month
Spring is here, and May's Bike Month is only a month away! It's time to dust off your bike, pedal to work, encourage co-workers and/or your employees to bike to work, and think about attending or throwing a Bike Month event. Bike Month is an easy and fun way to endorse and encourage bicycling for fun, fitness and transportation. Please send all Bike Month events to for the League to post on
League News
Move Your Club to the Front of the Pack
Club Leadership TrainingThe League's Club Leadership Training in Milwaukee, Wis. this April 9-11 will help your club grow more efficient, effective and fun and will focus on the needs of club leaders such as presidents, vice presidents, membership coordinators and volunteers. If your club needs assistance, ideas, or regional club connections, this is the seminar for you! Register today.  
League Audit Committee 
Calling all "accountability geeks." The League Board has an Audit Committee that is charged with shepherding the League's financial audit as well as monitoring the financial operating procedures of the organization. The Audit Committee may also review performance on contracts and grants. If you are interested in joining the Audit Committee, contact and provide a brief set of credentials.  While we do not require any certificate or degree to serve on this committee, it will be beneficial to have a range of expertise on the committee including: accounting, grant management, bookkeeping, and administrative management.
Bike League Flickr - Summit Photos!
Were you at the 2010 National Bike Summit oBike League Flickrr wish you had the opportunity to attend? Either way, we have the whole event documented. Check out the Bike League Flickr page for all photos.
State and Local News 
Safe Routes to School Mini-grant Call
The National Center for Safe Routes to School is now accepting applications for up to 35 mini-grants of $1,000 each to support the goal of Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs, which is to enable and encourage children to safely walk and bicycle to school. Read more andapply today!
Bikes Belong Awards Five REI/BFC Grants 
Bikes Belong, in partnership with the League and with generous support from REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.), announced the 2010 REI/Bicycle Friendly Community Grant Awards. These grants, between $15,000 and $20,000 each, were awarded to five grassroots groups that are working closely with their city governments to make conditions better for bicycling in aspiring and designated Bicycle Friendly Communities. Read about the winners here.
Alliance Winning Campaigns Training
The Alliance for Bicycling and Walking's next Winning Campaigns Training will be on April 16-18. It will be hosted by New Orleans Metro Bicycle Coalition. The training will focus on issue definition, campaign goals, resources assessment, strategy, communication, tactics/timelines, and resource management.

Read more and register today.
Charleston, S.C. Petitions for Bike Lanes
The Charleston, S.C. biking community has requested bike lanes on the newly resurfaced Maybank Highway, a high-traveled and traffic packed road, when the road is re-striped. The SCDOT has opted to not provide bike lanes despite the USDOT's new policy, signed into effect March 11, 2010, giving equal consideration to cars, bikes and pedestrians. Sign the Charleston Bike petition today. 
Job Opportunities
Saris Job Opening
Saris Cycling Group is hiring a Business Development Manager of Parking Systems. Visit Saris' employment page for more information.
USA Cycling Job Opening
USA Cycling is seeking a New Media Manager. Visit USA Cycling's job description for full info.
City of Omaha, Neb. Job Opening
The City of Omaha, Neb. is looking for a new City Planner - Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator. Visit the city's career website for complete information.
Revolution Cycles Job Opening
Revolution Cycles has decided to create a new position and will be bringing on an Events and Advocacy Manager. More details on the position can be found at
The League of American Bicyclists promotes bicycling for fun, fitness and transportation, and works through advocacy and education for a bicycle-friendly America. The League represents the interests of America's 57 million bicyclists, including its 300,000 members and affiliates. For more information or to support the League,
People, not speed.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Commuting 101: So sayeth the law (part 2)

Last week we continued our look at Commuting 101 with the first part of Columbus's traffic code and the biking rules and regulations in it.

Today we'll continue that, with a look at where you can ride, signal devices required by law, right of way and reckless operation, and more.

First, let's reiterate that the entire text of the Columbus Traffic Code is available online for you to read, and it's highly suggested that you do.

We're fortunate in Columbus that our right to take the lane is spelled out very clearly in section 2173.04.  It begins by pointing out that bicyclists should ride as far to the right as is practicable, and reiterates that we should operate in accordance with the same laws as motorists in their cars.

It also mentions that cyclists are allowed to ride two-abreast (two cyclists riding side-by-side in one lane) on standard road lanes.  This does not necessarily apply on paths and bike  lanes where the rules may be different depending on the size of the lane or path and other rules for those paths.

Here's the really important part, and because it's so important we're going to quote it right here:
This section does not require a person operating a bicycle to ride at the edge of the roadway or within a marked bike lane when it is unreasonable or unsafe to do so. Conditions that may require riding away from the edge of the roadway or outside of a marked bike lane include when necessary to avoid fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, surface hazards, or if it otherwise is unsafe or impracticable to do so, including if the lane is too narrow for the bicycle and an overtaking vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.
As was so ably pointed out and confirmed in the recent "Take the Lane" court case, we as cyclists don't have to constantly hug the right side of the lane.  We can ride out as far as we think we need to in order to ride safely.  And we can do it any time we don't think there's enough room to share a lane with a car safely.

Columbus is very lucky to have this written directly into the traffic code.  Many other communities wish that they had such verbiage in their traffic code.

Let's continue now.  Section 2173.05 sets out the types of lights and brakes you must have your bike. We pointed out earlier in this Commuting 101 series the types of lights we recommend to conform to the Columbus code. But it bears repeating.  Cyclists need:
  • A white front headlight, visible from 500 feet in front of, and 300 feet to either side of that point.  Generator-powered lights that only operate while the wheels are turning fill this requirement.  
  • A rear reflector - visible from 100 to 600 feet behind your bike.  
  • A rear flashing or steady red light, visible from 500 feet behind your bike.  
  • If your rear light is also a reflector when not operating, that fulfills this requirement.  
Any other additional lights are acceptable as well, with the only exceptions being that white lights may not be attached to the rear of your bike and red lights to the front - obviously to keep confusion by other road operators to a minimum!  These lights are to be used during night and twilight hours as well as in the rain or fog - any time visibility is not at a normal level.  And that just makes good sense for your own safety on the road as well!

Your bike may have a signaling device such as a horn or bell, but you can't use a siren or whistle - to make sure you're not being mistaken for a police officer.  It's not required, though.

And naturally, your bike needs to have functioning brakes.  Fixie riders, take note!

Moving on, we come to some right-of-way concerns in section 2173.07.  This section discusses the interactions between younger riders on a sidewalk, or any rider on a road or bike path, and pedestrians.  At all times, right-of-way is to be given to pedestrians (which is consistent with motorists' requirements as well - pedestrians always have the right of way in Columbus).  And any time you're overtaking a pedestrian, you must give an audible signal.  Your bell or horn are adequate, as is a simple "Passing on your left" call before you get to the pedestrian.  Take care around pedestrians, please, for your safety and theirs!

Notable in this section, of course, are these two statements:  "this section does not require a person operating a bicycle to ride on the right side of the roadway when it is unreasonable or unsafe to do so," and "nothing in this section requires a bicycle operator to use a marked bike lane."

That's right - you are not required to ride in a bike lane if you so desire.  They're there if you want to use them.

Related to this section is the next, section 2173.08, about reckless riding.  Under all circumstances, keep your bike under control and don't ride recklessly!  And keep one hand on your handlebars at all times.  Keep  your speed under control, too.

Section 2173.09 states that you must keep your bike out of the way of pedestrians and cars when you park it - whether on the sidewalk or in a roadway.  This is also just considerate and will keep your bike from getting damaged!

Section 2173.10 states a very important fact:  you may not ride your bike on the sidewalk, unless you're a kid.  We covered this in the previous post as well.  But, if a sidewalk is designated as part of a multi-use path, then feel free to ride there (keeping in mind the pedestrian right-of-way, of course!).

The next section, 2173.105, states that motor vehicles (other than city maintenance vehicles) may not ride on the sidewalks or multi-use paths.  And, more importantly, motor vehicles aren't allowed in bike lanes, except when loading or unloading passengers and/or freight, pulling into a parking space on the opposite side of a bike lane, or merging into a bike lane in order to turn right (which is the proper method of operating at an intersection with a bike lane!).

Section 2173.11 states that bikes can be impounded for violations, and sets out the rules surrounding that. Keep your nose clean.

The next section, 2173.12, talks about bike crossings and roads.  If a bike crossing is not protected by a stop sign or light on a road, the cyclist must stop and wait for other vehicles to clear the road before they proceed across.  You see this occasionally in Columbus on the southern section of the Olentangy River Multi-Use path, for example.

The final section of the Columbus traffic code, 2173.13, addresses motorized bicycles (which are defined in section 2101.195).  It's got a lot of references to State of Ohio code 4511.521, so it's recommended you check that out, too. Basically, it helps define the proper users of motorized bicycles, (14- or 15-year olds with motorized bicycle permits or anyone with a driver's license) and how they should be equipped (helmet with chin strap, rear-view mirror).  It also states that they should be operated with three feet of a roadway's right side when practicable - probably taking into account the same rules as 2173.04, above.

So that's the law.  It's pretty simple, and is very favorable to bicyclists and their safety.  Follow these rules and you shouldn't have any problems riding your bike safely and effectively on our city streets and paths!
For more info: Columbus Traffic Code
People, not speed.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Bike Commuting in Columbus Rates High with Environmental Science Website

Environmental Science has released its list of "55 Bicycle Sites to Go Green and Get Fit."  And I'm proud to say that Bike Commuting in Columbus has been included among this group!

It's always nice to be included in lists with such cycling luminaries as, Bike Commute Tips Blog, and many many others!  Give it a look - and visit some of those other great sites, too.  There's lots of good stuff out there!

People, not speed.

Commuting 101: So Sayeth The Law (Part 1)

In the past few days on our Commuting 101 series, we've discussed finding the proper bikegetting gear to make your ride more effective and easyhow to dress for safety and comfort, and how to get cleaned up once you get to work.

Today, we'll address what you need to know for actually riding the road in our first of two parts about the local cycling laws in Columbus.

First, let's reiterate that this is information that is specific to Columbus, Ohio.  Your local laws may vary if you're riding in another community.  It's recommended that you do an internet search for "bicycle traffic code" and your city's name if you're interested in finding these laws yourself.

Let's get started.  First, the Columbus Traffic Code is available on the internet and is easy to navigate, thank goodness.  The Traffic Code is Title 21 of the Columbus, Ohio Code of Ordinances, and bicycling is addressed in Chapter 2173 - Bicycles, Motorcycles, and Children's Non-Motorized Vehicles.  The code was revised back in 2008 to make it more coherent and easy to read and manage, as well as get rid of some contradictory phrasing.

The code starts off with the following statement:
The provisions of this Traffic Code that are applicable to bicycles apply whenever a bicycle is operated upon any street or highway or upon any shared-use path within the public right-of-way as defined in section 910.01 (P) of the Columbus City Code or easement adjacent thereto or however specifically provided for in Chapter 2173.
So, anything that mentions bicycles specifically in this section of the code is applicable to anywhere a bike is operating in the public right of way - including shared-use paths (like the Olentangy Multi-Use Trail, for example).  Section 910.01 (P) defines the "public right-of-way" as:
"Right-of-way" means the surface of and the space above and below the paved or unpaved portions of any public street, public road, public highway, public freeway, public lane, public path, public way, public alley, public court, public sidewalk, public boulevard, public parkway, public drive and any other land dedicated or otherwise designated for the same now or hereafter held by the city...
So, for our purposes, this is any roadway in the city.  That's pretty simple.

Sections B, C, D, and E address some of the consequences of being accused of violating the traffic code.  B states that all the rules of vehicular traffic except for those that "by their nature" don't apply to bikes are to be followed by cyclists.  C addresses possible penalties such as tickets or summons which can be levied, though it does mention that cycling violations do not put points on a driver's license.

D states, interestingly, that a driver or cyclist who endangers the lives of others in the committing of an offense can be required to take a cycling course in addition to any other penalty, fine, etc.  And E states that the penalties mentioned in C and the possible course mentioned in D don't apply when the charge includes driving or operating a bike under the influence of intoxicants.  There are other more serious penalties for that.

Section 2173.015 simply defines some terms that don't apply to us, mostly - snowmobiles, children's non-motorized vehicles, and "operate." Operate simply means use a bike, for our purposes.

The next section, 2173.02, is concerned with things like passengers and safe use of a bicycle.  A cyclist must be on the bicycle properly, either sitting on or standing over the seat.  In other words, it's legal to stand up and pedal, but stay over the top tube.  And you can't carry anything with you on the bike that makes you take both hands off the handlebars.

You can't carry any more passengers than the number for which your bike is made and equipped.  In other words, if you have a kids' seat on the bike, that's okay -but having someone stand up behind you on the bike or sit in front of you on the top tube is illegal.

If you're under 18, you must wear a helmet and fasten the chin strap to be on a bike, whether as a passenger or the operator.

And section 2173.03 addresses attaching your bike to another vehicle.  Don't do it.  And don't let anyone on a bike or other vehicle do it to you! The assumption here, though, is that they don't mean attaching one bike to another - otherwise every bike trailer, trailer-bike, or bike on a tow bar is illegal.  I doubt that was the intent of the law.

Next time, we'll address the rest of the Columbus traffic code as it pertains to bicycles!
For more info: Columbus Traffic Code
People, not speed.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Commuting 101: Clean and Pressed

Our Commuting 101 series keeps plugging along. You've chosen a new bike, procured the gear you need, and found the best way for you to dress for your ride.  Now, it's time for us to get cleaned up and ready for the day.

One of the top reasons we hear for people not wanting to ride their bikes to work is cleanliness.  America has a war on smells going on, as you may have noticed.  People buy aromatic oils for their homes, masses of deodorants, colognes, and perfumes, and avoid doing things physical unless they can take a shower immediately afterward.

Whether it's silly or not, it's a fact.  So when we ride to work, one of our concerns is how we appear and smell once we get there.  No one wants to be a sweaty mess in the office.  So today's topic is how to look and feel fresh at your work once you're there.

Your options aren't as limited as you might think they are, actually.  The best option is to work at a place that actually has showers and lockers and the like at the office so you can get cleaned up.  This option is getting more and more attractive as government gives companies incentives to build such stuff.  But it's still pretty rare.  But ask around - especially among the people who work for the building you work in. Janitors and maintenance staff know more about the building than most and may know that there is indeed a shower that hardly anyone uses!

Another option, though, may be closer than you think.  Is there a health club near your job?  Many health clubs these days have shower and locker service only for a reduced fee.  You can ride to the health club, get cleaned up and cooled down, and then make your way to the office feeling fresh and ready for the day.  Ask around at the health clubs near your office.

Now, there are plenty of us who don't have either of the above two options.  There's no shower or lockers, and your office is out in an industrial park with no health club nearby.  So now it's time for option three:  cleaning yourself at the office.

There are a number of great products that can make this cleanup process easier.  One of them is ActionWipes.  Originally created for action athletes to get cleaned up after their ride/hike/what have you, the commuters have adopted this item for its great smell and economical size.  They're similar to a baby wipe, but as their logo states, "your face is not a baby's butt. Don't wipe it like one."  They're larger and their ingredients are natural and very pleasing to the senses.  One wipe can pretty much take care of your whole body.  There are other similar products as well - a Google search for "bath wipes" will show you some of these.

Combine these wipes with a brush and a stick of deodorant and you'll be good to go for the day.
One thing that having some Action Wipes or other product available won't do, though, is cool you down.  A small fan for your desk is inexpensive and can be easily found at many stores - groceries, big box stores, drug stores, etc.  Just switch it on for a few minutes when you sit down and you'll be cool and dry.

But what about clothes?  Let's say you have a long commute, or you're just a person who perspires more than others.  You may not want to wear your work clothes on your commute.  What do you do then?

There are a couple of options. Last week, we talked about getting a rear rack for your bike with panniers.  There are actually panniers that are big enough to hold a pair of chinos or dress pants, a shirt, and shoes.  The suggestion to keep your clothes nicely pressed and un-wrinkled is to roll them instead of folding them.

If you wear a suit, there are actually panniers that are a combination of garment bag and pannier.  You can carry your suit on the back of your bike and keep it clean, dry, and pressed the whole way.

Another option, if you don't ride to work every day, is to bring your clothes for the week and leave them at work on a day when you drive or ride the bus.  Then, when you come in every day, your clothes are waiting for you when you get there.  If you do bring your clothes with you each day, it's still advisable to have one set of "back-up"clothes at work just in case something happens on the way in to the job.

So how do you keep yourself fresh and clean after your ride to work?  And are there any other topics about commuter cycling you'd like to have covered?  Tell us in the comments below!
People, not speed.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Commuting 101: What to wear

So far in our Commuting 101 series, we've discussed buying or resurrecting a bike and what gear will make your commute safer and more effective.  Today we'll talk about the final thing to take into consideration for your ride: what you're going to wear.  And perhaps surprisingly, it doesn't have to include spandex.

There's nothing wrong with wearing specialty bicycling clothing for your commute to work.  If this is what you're comfortable with, and you have a way to get your change of clothes to work, then go for it.  But many prefer to just wear their daily work clothes.  And that's also fine.

The first thing to keep in mind, though, is that you're going to get warm while riding.  So wearing that heavy jacket that you normally wear when driving or taking the bus is going to make you very hot and sweaty for your arrival at work.  A light jacket or fleece should be plenty to keep you warm on cool days, and that plus a windbreaker of some kind should suffice for winter riding.

The general rule of thumb for staying warm while riding is that if you feel a little bit chilly as you're taking off in the morning, you'll be fine once you get going and your body heats up from the exertion of riding.  Even if you're not going too fast, you'll find that your body heat will be more than adequate to keep you warm.

During summer months, when it's too warm for a jacket of any kind, a t-shirt should be enough.  And if it gets too warm, a simple pair of shorts will be great.

But your outfit should most certainly include this first item: a helmet.   You'll hear lots of discussion about helmets - whether they work, whether they should be required, what kind of helmet to wear, etc.

A bicycle helmet is designed to reduce the impact of a fall from your bike, plain and simple.  Helmet use has been shown to reduce serious head injuries by 85%.  And it's better to be prepared than vulnerable in case of a fall or collision.

Have the salesperson in the store show you the proper way to wear it if you don't know - it should sit flat on your head, not tilted to the front or back, and be snug but not tight.  The straps should be joined just under each ear, not halfway down your cheek.  And the strap's buckle should be snug while your mouth is completely open.  And though not necessary, a visor is nice on a helmet to keep the sun out of your eyes.  Most helmets sold to commuters have a removable visor now.

Helmets don't have to cost a lot, about $20-$40 is average for an everyday helmet.  But they do have a lifetime.  About five years is enough, after that the foam inside the plastic liner starts to break down and may not protect you adequately in event of a fall or collision.  And if you do have a fall or collision in which the helmet takes a very jarring blow?  Replace the helmet for your own safety.  The Bike Helmet Safety Institute has some other great advice on helmets.  

Photo by Jamie Fellrath
Glasses are another item of bike gear you'll want to get.  And that's less because of the sun than to protect your eyes from debris and weather.  For this reason, we recommend getting a pair of "wrap-around" glasses for your cycling.  These glasses will do a great job of keeping out wind, dust, rain, snow, sleet, or whatever other hazards you may come across.

Wind can make your eyes tear up while riding, and you can imagine what getting dust in them will do.  Rain or snow falling into your eyes while riding can be distracting and even a bit painful.

Once again, you don't have to pay a lot for your cycling glasses. They'll cost anywhere from $15-$60 for a serviceable pair.  Some of the features other than being wraparound that you'll see for cycling glasses include tinted lenses or fog-proofing.  As long as they fit securely and keep things out of your eyes, though, they'll work.

You can also wear your every day sunglasses, but keep in mind that most sunglasses don't have protection on the sides of your eyes before relying too heavily on those.  Still, they should keep out most debris as you're riding along.

Next, let's talk a bit about visibility.  That's not how well you can see, but rather how well you're seen by drivers and other road users.  Bright colors and reflective material are great for ensuring that you're not missed as you ride.

There are a couple of ways to accomplish this.  Some like to go with a windbreaker or jacket of some kind.  Bright green/yellow fluorescent jackets are wonderful for repelling light rain and wind while keeping your presence on the road pretty obvious to everyone.

There are plenty of great designs for jackets ranging from around $50 to $100.  Many of them designed for cycling have vents in key places to keep you cool, or may allow you to remove the sleeves on particularly warm days.

But jackets designed for cyclists do have one minor flaw - they're not necessarily designed for for commuting.  They're generally cut very slim, with the thought that the wearer is probably just wearing their spandex bike jersey underneath.  For a commuter, who may be wearing their everyday work clothes, such a jacket may be too tight and constricting.  Buying a larger size than you need can certainly help in this regard. Keep this in mind when you buy.

Another cheaper and more flexible option is the reflective vest.  These are available in bike shops and plenty of other types of sporting goods stores or big box stores, and run from $5-$20 depending on the design.  This will allow you to wear whatever you'd like and still remain visible while you ride.

Some models even have a small pocket in the front for convenience sake (it's much easier to get something out of a vest pocket than a pants pocket while you ride!).

With a vest, you won't have the same issues as you might with a jacket and the tightness factor because they're fully adjustable to fit around whatever clothing you're wearing.

Tomorrow we'll discuss some options for changing clothes and cleaning up upon your arrival at work.

People, not speed.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Commuting 101: Getting geared up

Photo by Danielle Keller
In our Commuting 101 series, yesterday we discussed choosing a new bike if you need one and getting a bike tuned up if you're resurrecting an older one.  Today's topic is gear - some extra stuff you might want to make your ride more convenient, safer and more comfortable.

First, let's take a moment to discuss bike lights.  Lights on a bike are required by law in the City of Columbus between sunset and sunrise, and at any other times when the weather requires.  And they're simply a good idea for the sake of visibility while riding as well.

City traffic code requires a white headlight, visible up 500 feet away and 300 feet to each side (I assume that means 300 feet to each side from that point 500 feet away).  Generator-powered lights that are only in operation while the bike is moving are acceptable.  It also requires a red rear reflector and red taillight.  If the red taillight is also a reflector then that's fine.

Lights really aren't that expensive to get a serviceable model.  Many times you can find sets of both headlights and taillights.  Some people like to get a little more in a headlight, and they can run up to a couple hundred dollars, but you can get a perfectly useful model for anywhere from $20 to $60.  Some of the model names that you should look for are CatEye, CygoLite, Planet Bike, and Knog (though these are hardly the only ones).  Most are battery powered, any many have rechargeable batteries.  Some companies now have models with a solar-rechargeable battery so you can charge it during the day while you ride.

Though a backpack or messenger bag is perfectly acceptable as a way to get your stuff from home to work, they have the disadvantage of making your back all sweaty.  And for those who are trying to keep their clothing changes to a minimum, this isn't a desirable outcome.

Panniers are bags that hang from a from or rear rack on your bike, next to the wheel.  They are fantastic for carrying your stuff around.  When you're looking for panniers for your bike, keep the following things in mind.

First, you want them to be waterproof.  Even if you don't want to ride in the rain, your panniers may get splashed or you may get caught in a sudden downpour.  Being prepared with waterproof panniers is the best plan.

Second, you want them to have some reflective material on them for the sake of visilbility.  Some panniers come in bright fluorescent yellow or orange colors, others have reflective piping or stitching on them.  All work well to increase your visibilty.

Third, they should be easy to remove.  You don't always want to leave your panniers out on your bike where someone can snatch them.  Ease of removal will make your life more simple when you get to your destination.  Asking the clerk at the bike store for this will make your life easier.

Finally, panniers generally require a rack of some kind on your bike.  A rear rack is easy to install and very handy, even if you're not carrying your panniers for whatever reason.

The final item we'll mention in today's installment of Commuting 101 is fenders.  These are simply pieces of material to keep water from splashing up off your tires onto you.  There's nothing more annoying than arriving at your destination with a line of dirty water running up your backside and back, and no one wants to have to wear rain gear when it's not raining.

Many bikes come with fenders already attached.  If you can find these, that's great.  But as we mentioned yesterday regarding chain guards, fenders are one of those items that American bikes haven't featured for standard bikes for a long time.

Fortunately, there are plenty of options for fenders that can be added to your bike.  Some are called blade fenders, and are a simple piece of wide steel or plastic that extends back from your seat post to keep water from splashing up on your back.  But using one of these makes it difficult to carry anything on your rear rack.  So we recommend getting a pair of regular fenders, as pictured to the left.  You'll notice that they include a mudguard which will keep water from splashing up on people behind you.  There are a number of these available from companies like Planet Bike and TOPEAK.

So with all your gear and your bike picked out, you're ready to ride.  Tomorrow we'll feature some of the clothing items that will make your ride safer and more comfortable.

People, not speed.

Join the VicVille Morning Group Ride

Would you love to bike commute, but you don't feel quite safe doing it on your own?  Is traffic too much for you?  Are you just a social person who likes to have someone to ride with?

Ariel Godwin of Victorian Village contacted me about the following ride that's in the works for those bike commuters and anyone living in Victorian Village who'd like to try it out.

Riding in numbers is a great way to create visibility on the streets, and just have some fun!
Daily Group Bike Commute: Vic Village/Short North to Downtown

This is a daily group ride for bike commuters from the Victorian Village / Short North / Italian Village area to Downtown. Please spread the word.

  • Strength and safety in numbers.
  • Riding with a group will give confidence to people who might not otherwise ride. If you've been wanting to try bike commuting but it makes you nervous, this group is for you.
  • Being visible and setting a good example. The more cyclists commute in Columbus, the more accepted they will be.
Meet at the northeast corner of Goodale Park, at Buttles & Park St., at 8:00 a.m. every weekday. We'll leave at 8:05. For the ride home, meet at the northeast corner of Broad & Front St., by the Leveque Tower, at 5:10 pm. We'll leave at 5:15. This will take place every weekday starting March 17, 2010.

The route downtown will go along Park St., Front St., Marconi Blvd., and Civic Center Drive. The route and times are flexible and open to suggestions.

We have the same right to use the road as motorists, and will follow the rules of the road. We will look out for each other and avoid riding in the "door zone" of parked cars. A digest of Ohio bicycle laws can be found here:

Come bike with us! Rain or shine!
People, not speed.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Commuting 101: Choosing a Bike

Blogger's Note:  This is the start of a new series on Bike Commuting in Columbus - Commuting 101.  While I've marked posts with that before, the goal here is to provide the basic info you need to get on your bike and get commuting! 

As we get closer to the beginning of spring, more people are taking to the roads and enjoying the world of cycling for transportation.  And there are many more who would love to do so, only they don't have that most basic of items necessary for riding to work:  a bicycle.  And many more have an old bicycle kicking around in the basement, garage, storage cell, what have you, but they haven't ridden it in years.

So let's discuss those two possibilities.  First, getting a "new" bike, and second, getting the old one ready to ride.

First, a good solid commuter/transportation bike is NOT always a recreational road bike.  The same bikes you see Lance Armstrong and his compatriots barreling along the French countryside on will not make good commuter bikes for most people.

Granted, if you're a current road bike racer, touring cyclist, or other recreational cyclist, then riding your current bike is probably going to be just fine.  But there are some caveats to that and I'll get to those later.

Now keep in mind that all these suggestions below are based purely on my personal observations through three and a half years of commuter cycling, so you may disagree.  If you do, let me know why in the comments below!

A commuter bike is simple to operate, comfortable to ride, and sturdy.  It can handle some cargo.  It's set up to get on and go.

Let's start with simple to operate.  I recommend upright or flat handlebars for commuter riding.  Again, if you're used to something else, then go with it.  But I've found that people who are sitting upright with those types of handlebars are more able to see what's around them, and also their turning signals (which, you'll recall, are done with the arms on a bike) are more easily seen.  Also, sitting upright is more comfortable.

Brakes and gear-shift levers can sometimes tricky to operate on a bike, particularly for new riders.  Brakes should be located where they are immediately accessible - preferably right on the handlebar in front of your hand grips for quick access in case of the need for a quick stop.

The locations of gear shift levers can be on the handlebars, the top tube, any number of places.  Some folks like them to be down on the stem or the head tube, because they're more easily accessible when down in the racer's crouch.  But for commuters, I suggest getting some handlebar-mounted gear shift levers - preferably ones that can be operated by the thumb as you're riding.  There are a couple of different models of these, and a good shop owner can show them to you.

The handlebar image above shows twist gear shifts - a good option for the commuter because they're literally at your fingertips and you can look down and see the number of the gear you're using.

Moving down the bike, I suggest that the bike have a chain guard.  This is that shell around the chain near the pedal and going back to the rear cassette that keeps your pants leg from getting all greasy.  Having this will allow you to ride any time without having to stuff your pant leg into your sock, and it's just more convenient.  Don't let this be a show-stopper, though.  While many American bikes are starting to sport chain guards for the reasons I describe, it's still not considered standard gear on a bike.

If you can find a bike that has a belt drive instead of a chain, you won't need to worry about this - belt drives don't need the lubrication to keep them running properly that a chain does, so the grease factor isn't an issue.

Tire width is another one of those things that is a matter of opinion.  Simply put, narrower tires are faster, no doubt about that.  Wider tires are slower.  But wider tires are also better for dealing with city streets because they are less likely to get caught in cracks in the pavement, sewer grates, and the other many road hazards you may come across.  I recommend getting tires that are at least 1.5 inches wide.  They'll handle those aforementioned hazards better.  I personally ride with 1.95" wide tires and I never have problems with cracks, etc.

And finally, make sure you have a comfortable saddle.  Sitting upright on the commuter bike, you'll need a wider saddle to be comfortable on your ride.  Of course, everyone's built differently, so my only advice is to take the time to find one that really feels comfortable to you.

So where should you get your bike?  That's easy:  at a bike shop.  PLEASE avoid getting your bikes as Wal-Mart, Target, etc.  While it's possible you could get a good bike there, you'll get some good attention from a bike shop owner who specializes in what you're looking for.

A good bike shop will let you test-ride bikes to see how you like them and how they fit you.  Make sure you tell the salesperson that you're looking for a commuter bike - something for simple transportation, and can take things like a rear rack and panniers, etc.  ASK QUESTIONS.  If you feel the salesperson is moving in the wrong direction for your bike needs, ask them questions about your concerns.

If the salesperson starts talking about things like bike weight, then you may have to re-focus them a bit.  Bike weight really isn't a concern for commuter cyclists - in fact, a sturdier, heavier bike is a good thing for the commuter.  Luckily, with more people bike commuting, salespeople are getting better at finding the bikes that are best for commuters.

You can find bikes at second-hand places and garage sales, too.  Be more careful here.  Some second-hand shops are good, some not so good.  Bikes don't devalue nearly as much as cars do, though, so an older bike is perfectly good solution to your problem.  And the same recommendations apply to second-hand shop salesmen as they do to new bike shop salesmen. Let them know what you want.  Sometimes, the second-hand shop guys know even MORE than the new shop guys because they've renovated the bikes in their shop personally!

Let's say, though, that you already have a bike in the garage.  You haven't ridden it in years, though, and you aren't sure about all the parts on it.  Instead of spending the money on a new bike, take that old bike into your local bike shop and get it tuned up and checked out by a professional bike mechanic.

The mechanic will get it lubed and cleaned, let you know if it's safe to ride, what parts might need to be replaced, and get the bike out and on the road.  Usually, this can be done for much less than the price of a new bike - even if parts need to be replaced.  As I mentioned before, bikes don't break down as much as cars do - a good bike frame, if made properly before, is a tough thing.

Tomorrow, we'll talk a bit about equipment you'll want to add to your bike that might not be included. 

Questions? Comments?  Feel free to chime in and start a conversation here!

People, not speed.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Yay Bikes Newsletter - March, 2010

And... here's the latest from Yay Bikes!

b2wcWe're excited to announce that sponsorships for the 2010 Bike to Work Challenge (May 10-20) are now available!! You and/or your organization can contribute to Central Ohio's premier commuter cycling celebration --> learn how to reach thousands of cyclists and other professionals with your message! Our Sponsorship Coordinator is also available to help you get the best bang for your buck.

Get yourself, your friends & your colleagues prepped for spring cycling and the Bike to Work Challenge with one of these intensive traffic skills courses. All have on-road and classroom components, as well as parking lot drills for emergency maneuvers; all cost $60.

Wednesdays, March 17 & 24 @ 6:30-8:30pm
Saturdays, March 20 & 27 @ 10am-2pm
Instructors: David Jeffords & Randy Dull
Location: Greenovate, 9 East 2nd Ave

Sundays, April 11 & 18 @ 1-6pm both days
Instructors: Meredith Joy & Juana Sandoval
Location: OSU area

Saturdays, April 24 & May 1 @ 10am-5pm
Instructors: Ken Cohen & Michael Reed
Location: OSU Bevis Hall, 1080 Carmack Rd

Instructors can also work with you to create custom courses that precisely match the needs of your organization. ContactKen Cohen soon to explore this option - our spring schedule is filling up fast!


Twenty-one women attended our first conversational forum, providing keen insights into why they ride and what would help them ride more. Thanks to all of them for sharing their thoughts so generously! Over the course of four such forums this year, Yay Bikes! will develop a women's cycling agenda to implement in 2011.

If you weren't able to attend this event, there is still time to have your voice heard! Attend our future events on May 30, August 29 & November 14, and submit your responses to our three questions from last week:
  1. What does the act of cycling mean to you?
  2. What is your experience of cycling in Columbus?
  3. What is your vision for cycling in Columbus?
We intentionally started with very broad questions that will give us the context from which we're now operating. Invite your women friends - cyclists or not - to future forums, to ensure the specific interventions we develop will resonate with the broader community of women!

Our board meetings are open to the public and we encourage you to attend. The first meeting of our newly constituted board* will be held at Summit on 16th on March 14 (note the switch that day to Daylight Savings Time); the agenda will be to complete our 501c3 application & set our regular monthly meeting time. Please join us for the conversation!

*Members are: Meredith Joy, Andrew Hulvey, Ken Cohen, Tricia Kovacs, Michael Reed & Austin Kocher. Stay tuned for more on each of these advocates!

KenOne goal for Yay Bikes! is to support people as they become advocates for the kind of cycling they'd like to see in Central Ohio. This month, we featureKen Cohen.

Over the past two years, Ken has emerged from his behind-the-scenes "subverita" persona to become a frequent Pedal Instead volunteer, a cycling instructor certified through the League of American Bicyclists, an outspoken advocate in the Hilltop Mobility Plan process, a Bike to Work Challenge Planning Committee member, and Treasurer of the new Yay Bikes! board. [Whew! Quite an impressive list!] Ken possesses an unrivaled passion for bicycles and bicycling, and particularly for bicycling education, that inspires all who work with him. We can't wait to see what more he will bring to our community!

People, not speed.